As Prepared for Delivery
Thank you so much Dr. Sandra Kurtinitis, for your great leadership and for opening up your campus to us.
Today we've assembled quite a collection of public servants and leaders in the fight against human trafficking, including U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein and the dedicated members of the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force. Thank you for all of your work over the last six years.
Also with us are some leaders at the national level on these issues, and we're very glad to have them here to share their expertise with us.
Pam Cammarata from the Department of Justice, Aashika Damodar from the Office for Victims of Crime, Carolina De Los Rios from the Polaris Project, and Nancy Winston from Shared Hope International. Thank you all so much for being here.
There is no such thing as a spare Marylander, or a spare American. We are here because we believe in the dignity of every individual.
There are things we can do and must do to protect every child from abuse and exploitation.
Effective Tactics and Strategies
Sadly, human trafficking is a problem virtually everywhere in the world.
In Maryland, we're particularly vulnerable because of our geography and our infrastructure.
In fact, some of the things that make our State such an attractive place to live and work--our port, our airports, our railways and our interstates--are also things that make us a nexus for trafficking.
There are things we can and must do to fight back. And with common platforms, the latest technology, and your help--we are working across a number of fronts.
We have hired a Human Trafficking Intelligence Manager--and charged her with leading a unified front. Christine Rothlein is aggregating data from every part of our government--so we can "know what we know." And using this information to lead a coordinated, effective, targeted attack.
We passed new laws--which we signed just last Thursday--during the last session to help our law enforcement bring traffickers to justice. And to give prosecutors more effective tools for securing convictions. Law enforcement agencies will be able to seize the property of these traffickers, as they already do in drug trafficking cases.
We're actively seeking out victims, rather than waiting for them to come to us. By mining "escort" websites, we've been able to save 17 child victims so far this year. Last year, we saved a total of 76 victims.
We're training our employees to ask better questions. This may sound simple, but it's critically important. Throughout our State government we have literally thousands of employees who come into contact with vulnerable children and their caretakers day after day after day. At the Department of Juvenile Services, we've already found 34 victims of trafficking through better screening and asking the right questions. We're implementing similar screening measures in the Department of Human Resources and the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.
Finding victims is the first step in saving kids from a life of exploitation. But it is only the first step. Once they are rescued, we are connecting them with things like mental health treatment and treatment for substance abuse--regardless of whether they happen to have health insurance.
By making these better choices, we are delivering better results. Results which are saving lives.
It's about a young girl found by an undercover agent in an Inner Harbor hotel in September of 2011. She was molested by her father and introduced to the underground world of sex trafficking by her sister.
She's now building a life in Maryland thanks to the partnership between the state and the Maryland-based nonprofit TurnAround, which is doing great work.
It's about a 19-year-old girl in Baltimore County. Investigators found her in a hotel in November, where she had been trafficked by a man she met online. She saw up to 20 customers a day.
After telling law enforcement her story, she said "The detectives treated me like a real person and it felt good to get everything off my chest."
That's what we're dealing with. A crime so heinous that survivors are surprised and grateful to just be treated like humans.
Most of you in this room know many stories like this. It's very easy, when we talk about screening processes and data sharing and prosecutorial tools, to forget about those stories.
We have to remember that data is a tool. A tool that we can use to prevent stories like this from being written.
In April, the good work of our Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, alongside the Annapolis Police Department, led to the convictions of two men who were living in our state illegally, and using violence and intimidation to prostitute woman.
The most sacred duty of any government is to promote the safety of our people.
And you all are doing that. We're making progress.
In the last six years, we've driven down female homicides by 18 percent.
To continue that progress, we've set a goal to reduce violent crimes against women and children by 25 percent by the end of 2018.
If we make better choices about how to use and share data, we will get better results for our most vulnerable people.
And one of the leaders in that effort has been Maryland's U.S. Attorney, Rod Rosenstein, who has a few words for us.